How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Glendale Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Glendale AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Glendale residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Glendale AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Glendale AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Glendale AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Glendale AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Glendale AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Glendale AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Glendale AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Glendale AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Glendale AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Glendale AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Glendale Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Glendale home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Glendale Arizona.